Spaces of virtual consumption
: the case of internet shopping

  • Adam Richard Smith

    Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research


    The Internet plays a central role in the lives of an increasing number of people, whether as a space for entertainment, information, learning, socialising or shopping. With access and penetration of high speed connections ever increasing, the so-called “Internet revolution” is set to continue. This study primarily focuses on the ways in which the Internet is used for shopping, commonly known as e-tailing. Academics have long studied a number of issues that are of significant importance to the phenomenon of e-tailing.

    The popularity and growth of the Internet has led to a large number of studies that focus on cyberspace, ranging from issues of users’ identity, interaction and communication to the behaviour of web users and through to the construction / deconstruction of place online. Much has been written on the subject of consumption, its birth and growth through different “consumer revolutions” to the present day globalised world of mass consumption. Linked to consumption is retailing, which is also widely covered in academic literature, including traditional spaces and forms of retailing, as well as “alternative” spaces such as farmers’ markets and car boot sales. Whilst much has been written on these individual themes a significant gap in the literature is apparent. This study combines these three topics to critically explore the geography of online retailing and its influence on consumers’ shopping behaviours and cultures of consumption and the relationship between ‘real’ and ‘virtual’ spaces. In particular, emphasis is placed upon the consumer. This is achieved through a number of methods, including a 100 user baseline survey and a more in-depth four Internet user biography stage.

    The findings suggest that a number of factors influence the behaviours of online shoppers, including the layout of websites, the content and familiarity that consumers have with sites, and the trust and loyalty users have with particular retailers. This allowed for the formation of five distinctive Internet shopping typologies: functional Internet shopping; bargain Internet shopping; lifestyle Internet shopping; specialised Internet shopping; and discreet Internet shopping. Whilst these shopping types are distinctive it is shown that consumers tend to exhibit more than one type of shopping behaviour. Once seen as an “alternative” space for shopping, the Internet now displays the same forms of mass consumerism as the “real” world and acts as a mirror/extension of the High Street.
    Date of Award2008
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorDamian Maye (Supervisor) & Philip Dunham (Supervisor)


    • e-commerce
    • online consumption
    • internet shopping
    • e-tailing

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